It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the one-quarter mark for the 2013 season.
However, with most teams having played around 40 games, league standings and stats are now relevant and based on something other than a small sample size.
With that being said, it’s only appropriate to take this opportunity to reflect on the performances of the game’s top Rookie of the Year candidates. As you will see, the collection of the talent in the National League is infinitely better than the American’s. Though it may not be long until there’s an infusion of young players through the AL.
So, here’s a look at the respective stocks of the current top rookies in the major leagues.
1. Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Minnesota Twins
2013 Stats: .276/.315/.460, 9 XBH (3 HR), 13 RBI, 27/5 K/BB (24 G)
After he went 1-for-3 in his major-league debut on April 15, the Twins sent Arcia back to Triple-A to make room on the 25-man roster for a player returning from the bereavement list. However, the 22-year-old’s stay in the minors was short lived, as he was ultimately recalled him just a few days later.
Arcia scuffled during his first week in the major leagues, but as April came to an end, the left-handed hitter’s bat began to heat up. He opened May with an eight-game hitting streak during which he batted .438 with five extra-base hits. Overall, Arcia has posted an .846 OPS through 13 games this month.
Although he’s struck out 27 times in 24 games, Arcia has still emerged as a key run-producer for the Twins this season, as he currently owns a .917 OPS with 11 RBI when batting with runners in scoring position. Additionally, he’s demonstrated a knack for mashing right-handed pitching with an .852 OPS and eight extra-base hits in 63 at-bats.
2. Nick Tepesch, RHP, Texas Rangers
2013 Stats: 3-3, 38 IP, 4.03 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .255 BAA, 30/10 K/BB (7 GS)
Having never pitched above Double-A prior to the 2013 season, it’s safe to say that Nick Tepesch has easily surpassed all expectations.
Due to various injuries to a host of Rangers pitchers this spring, the 24-year-old right-hander ultimately broke camp as the team’s fifth starter.
After an impressive first month in the major leagues during which he registered a 2.53 ERA with 14/3 K/BB over four starts, Tepesch began to struggle as the calendar turned over to May. In his two outings against the White and Cubs on May 1 and May 6, respectively, he allowed 10 earned runs on 14 hits and six walks over 10.2 painful frames.
However, with his spot in the rotation in jeopardy, Tepesch has made noticeable adjustments in his approach and sequencing in each of his last two outings. Between those two starts, the right-hander has allowed only three earned runs on 10 hits while posting 9/4 K/BB over 11 innings.
While it’s easy to identify flaws in an inexperienced pitcher forced to perform at the highest level, Tepesch has been surprisingly solid through eight starts in the major leagues. That being said, one aspect of his game that needs improvement is his approach against left-handed hitters.
So far this season, he’s posted a 5.14 ERA and .308 BAA (four home runs allowed) over 21 collective inning against them—which is staggering considering he owns a 2.86 ERA and .205 BAA against right-handed hitters.
3. Conor Gillaspie, 3B, Chicago White Sox
2013 Stats: .295/.359/.448, 9 XBH (3 HR), 25/11 K/BB (37 G)
Had someone told me during spring training that Conor Gillaspie would be in the American League rookie of the year discussion by mid-May, I might have laughed right in their face. Understandably.
However, the combination of unexpected injuries (Gordon Beckham) and poor performance (Jeff Keppinger) opened the door for the 25-year-old third baseman—an opportunity that he hasn’t relinquished. More significantly, Gillaspie emerged as one of the team’s more consistent hitters with an .859 OPS in 24 April games.
He’s cooled off some since the start of May with a .273 batting average over the last 13 games, but the left-handed hitter is still holding his own with and seeing consistent playing time at the hot corner. It certainly helps that he hammers right-handed pitching, against whom he’s batting .311/.384/.394 with three home runs in 87 at-bats this season.
It’s also wroth noting that Gillaspie’s defense has been considerably better than expected, as he currently ranks fifth among all qualified third baseman with a 2.4 UZR, while his three defensive runs saved is tied for second.
4. Carter Capps, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2013 Stats: 2-1, 22.1 IP, 4.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .264 BAA, 29/4 K/BB (17 G)
Capps needed only 69.1 innings in the minors before receiving a promotion to the major leagues last summer. Since then, the 6'5" right-hander has established himself as one of the top late-inning strikeout artists in the game thanks to an unorthodox delivery and fastball that sits in the mid- to upper-90s.
At face value, Capps’ current ERA of 4.03 suggests an inconsistent start the season. However, that’s not entirely accurate. The right-hander has been plagued by the long ball this season, and has now allowed five home runs in 17 appearances. More significantly, of the six appearances in which Capps has given up an earned run, four have been the direct result of a home run.
Other than that, he’s actually dominated this season as the Mariners’ setup man with 29/4 K/BB through 22.1 innings. In fact, Capps has fanned at least one batter in each outing this season.
5. Justin Grimm, RHP, Texas Rangers
2013 Stats: 2-3, 33.2 IP, 4.28 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, .270 BAA, 34/13 K/BB (6 GS)
Called up in early April to replace the injured Matt Harrison in the starting rotation, Grimm went 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA and 15/4 K/BB in 17 innings spanning three starts. As a result, the right-hander was named the American League rookie of the month for April ahead of teammate Nick Tepesch. Since then, however, Grimm has lost three consecutive starts during which he’s registered a 7.02 ERA, allowed four home runs and walked nine batters over 16.2 innings.
The good news is that Grimm is still missing bats with consistency, as he’s tallied 34 strikeouts through 33.2 innings this season.
On the bubble: Aaron Hicks (Twins), Cody Allen (Indians)
1. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Stats: 5-2, CG/SHO, 51.1 IP, 1.40 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .182 BAA, 57/12 K/BB (8 GS)
I really don’t even know where to start with Shelby Miller. After getting off to a terrific start in April with a 2.05 ERA, .189 BAA and 33/10 K/BB through five starts, the 22-year-old right-hander has been nearly unhittable in May.
His shining moment came on May 10 at home against the Rockies, when Miller allowed a leadoff single to Eric Young Jr., and then retired the final 27 batters en route to his first shutout. Although he wasn’t as sharp in his follow-up outing on Wednesday, the right-hander still fired 5.2 scoreless frames. Overall, Miller has registered a 0.44 ERA and .171 BAA with 24/2 K/BB this month.
And it gets better. Miller currently ranks second in the majors with a 1.40 ERA, fifth with a 0.88 WHIP and sixth with a .182 BAA.
2. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
2013 Stats: 2-2, 44 IP, 3.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .211 BAA, 44/17 K/BB (8 GS)
After back-to-back electric starts to begin his career in the major leagues, Fernandez was forced to battle through an adjustment period over the final weeks in April. During that stretch, the 20-year-old failed to make it past the fifth inning in three consecutive outings, as hitters began taking at-bats with an idea of what to expect.
However, Fernandez deserves enormous credit for how quickly he made the necessary adjustments to his approach. In his three starts this month, he’s 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA, .194 BAA and 21/6 K/BB over 20 innings. There’s no question about it; the kid is special.
3. Didi Gregorius, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
2013 Stats: .342/.392/.575, 13 R, 10 XBH (3 HR), 12/5 K/BB (19 G)
Gregorius didn’t make his season (and Diamondbacks) debut until April 18 after suffering a right elbow injury during spring training, but immediately began to make up for lost time by homering in his first plate appearance—which also marked the beginning of a modest 10-game hitting streak.
In general, the 23-year-old has quickly emerged as one of the better shortstops in the game. On defense, Gregorius has made highlight-reel plays on what seems like a nightly basis. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that his UZR/150 of 26.8 is the second highest among all big-league shortstops, trailing only the spectacular Andrelton Simmons (28.5).
Meanwhile, his left-handed bat continues to improve; Gregorius has made noticeable strides in his pitch recognition, and is driving the ball for extra-bases from line to line.
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Stats: 4-2, 55.1 IP, 3.42 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .246 BAA, 56/20 K/BB (9 GS)
Although the first quarter of the 2013 season hasn’t gone as planned for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ryu has been consistent every fifth day in middle of the team’s starting rotation. Of his nine outings thus far, the left-hander has lasted at least six innings in all but one—his most recent outing on Friday against the Braves in which he issued a career-worst five walks.
It’s also worth noting that Ryu and his deep arsenal has benefited from playing at Dodger Stadium. In his four home starts this season, he’s registered a 2.13 ERA, .228 BAA and 26/7 K/BB over 25.1 innings. On the other hand, he owns a 4.50 ERA on the road this season through five starts, as well as a .261 BAA and 30/13 K/BB.
5. Evan Gattis, C/OF, Atlanta Braves
2013 Stats: .243/.294/.513, 10 2B, 7 HR, 20 RBI, 31/8 K/BB (33 G)
The feel-good story of the 2013 season thus far, Gattis came out of the gates on fire and took the baseball world by storm. The 26-year-old ultimately batted .250/.310/.566 with six doubles, six home runs and 16 RBI in April, and was subsequently named the National League’s rookie of the month.
Although he’s swung the bat relatively well in May, Gattis’ playing time has diminished since the activation of catcher Brian McCann from the disabled list. And now with Jason Heyward also back in action, it’ll be interesting to see how Fredi Gonzalez works him into the lineup.
On the bubble: Jedd Gyorko (Padres), Trevor Rosenthal (Cardinals), Tony Cingrani (Reds)